Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Footfall by Christine Poulson

published 2006





I can see her now: her big brown monkey eyes set in a net of wrinkles and her bobbed hair, very different from the corrugated perm of so many elderly women of her generation…

She put her hand on my arm. That hand with its carefully tended nails painted read and the big antique rings – one I remember was composed of a huge cluster of little garnets so that it looked like a luscious fruit – that hand was all of a piece with the rest of her: the distinctive perfume, the striking clothes she wore of velvet and chiffon in rich dark colours such as claret and midnight blue. She must have been beautiful in a jolie laide sort of way as a young woman and she was still glamorous…


[Later] I pressed the tips of my fingers to my forehead and tried to see Una in my mind’s eye. What had she been wearing? I saw a velvet tunic, dark, maybe black, with touches of dark blue, a swirl of purple…


observations: I’m a bit concerned that Christine Poulson has stopped writing her crime fiction, and wondering what could be done to change her mind. This is the third of her academic mysteries featuring Cassandra James: Murder is Academic and Stage Fright featured on the blog last year. Both were good, and this one is even better. A Cambridge setting, academics as characters, a private library, bookshops, and valuable first editions of detective stories - this book has everything the discerning reader could want, and I (naturally a discerning reader) enjoyed it hugely. Cassandra is an appealing character, and Poulson is very good at creating atmosphere – whether a creepy moment in the dark, or the joys of family life with a small child. The plot concerns the death of the woman above, who is a retired academic friend of our sleuth, and various nefarious goings-on concerning wills and trusts.

The setting in the Fens (in the east of the UK) is conjured up beautifully, with freezing weather followed by thaws and floods – very appropriate given the weather in the UK right now, and special opportunities for detective fans remembering Dorothy L Sayers classic The Nine Tailors (here, with bell-ringing). And Cassandra dreams of skating over the frozen Fens with an unknown companion, just as in this recent entry on Tom’s Midnight Garden.

There seems to be nothing new from Poulson since this one: such a pity, and a pity this series isn’t better known - I’m sure many people would enjoy it. And then Poulson might write some more?

Murder is Academic has been republished by Ostara Publications, as a paperback and an ebook.

Una, above, is plainly elegant and well-dressed, and so inspired me to find a picture of Dame Judi Dench. But I have to admit, this was partially inspired by Philip Hensher’s wonderful bitchy reference in King of the Badgers:
She was aware of the dangers to a woman of her size and age of flowing red and purple velvet, of ethnic beads…She would not, like most of Hanmouth’s women, be inspired by Dame Judi Dench on an Oscar night…
 -- see this entry for more on this.

13 comments:

  1. Moira - Oh, what a great premise for a series!!!! Little wonder you like these books as much as you do, and the snippets you've shared show that Poulson has a very effective writing style too. I hope that she will write more.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think you'd enjoy this series Margot - academic setting, very well-written, and good plots...

      Delete
  2. Thanks so much for this. I'm delighted that you enjoyed the novels. The long silence hasn't been through choice, but I have at last got a new crime novel coming out later this year with Accent Press (though it doesn't feature Cassandra.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Excellent! I hope you won't abandon Cassandra forever, but another crime novel of any kind will be most welcome, and I promise to feature it on the blog....

      Delete
  3. Moira: Dame Judi continues to project a woman of dignity and fun. She was an amazing "M". Too few women of her age get the chance to be action heroes.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. She's an inspiration isn't she? Such a role model for older ladies, if only we could all have such roles....

      Delete
  4. More you than me, I'd probably enjoy it in truth, but it's not one I'd crawl over broken glass to get.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I like the way even your metaphors are noir-ish. Are you expecting me to say in similar circs 'I wouldn't ladder my stockings to get it'?

      Delete
    2. Or......chip a nail, perhaps

      Delete
  5. This series does sound very good. I will put it on a list to pursue later because I have to exercise some restraint right now. Really.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hope one of the books turns up at your book sale Tracy, that would be convenient....

      Delete
  6. I'm also glad to say that Christine will have a brand new story in the forthcoming CWA anthology, Guilty Parties, which I hope will be out in the spring.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Martin, that's good news all round - I'm sure you'll remind us on your blog, and I'll certainly be looking out for that.

      Delete